Not far from St Stephen's Green, you'll find in Merrion Row, Dublin, a bar run by Paddy O'Donoghue. Ever since my first trip to Eire, I remember the bar as a mecca for folk singers and instrumentalists, so it's not surprising that the original Dubliners first met up there.
Ronnie Drew and Barney McKenna originally teamed up for a fund raising concert and went on to work in a revue with a well known, comedian, John Molloy. Ronnie and Barney were, of course, frequently to be seen in O'Donoghue's, and so too were Luke Kelly and Ciaran Bourke. The first time I went into O'Donoghue's, I saw a guitar hanging on the wall behind the bar. It was Luke Kelly's — he used to leave it there between sessions.
The four lads formed a group that, for a while, was known, as the Ronnie Drew group, and it was while they were travelling to a singing engagement that they decided to call themselves the Dubliners. Luke was reading James Joyce's novel of that name and put an end to all argument when he announced that, really, no other name would be better. Mot for the first time he was right.
At that time (1962) I had known Luke Kelly for a couple of years. He was often seen in the London folk clubs, and even more often at Ian Campbell's Jug o' Punch club in Birmingham. My first memories of meeting the other three Dubliners arise from successive fleadanna ceoil (festivals of music, that is) in Mullingar and Clones. And the group also turned up at the Edinburgh festival in 1963.
That appearance led to the group's being featured in various editions of the BBC television show, Hootenanny. They signed with Transatlantic Records, for whom they cut a single (Rocky road to Dublin/Wild rover) and their first lp, simply titled The Dubliners.
They were doing well in Ireland, but it is no overstatement to say that they took the English folk scene by storm — clubs, concerts, and festivals. Some liked them for their rough diamond quality: although they were all manifestly good performers, they made no attempt to put a false, showbiz gloss on what they were doing, preferring to deliver it in a gutsy fashion that became almost a trademark. Some liked them for their irreverence: they didn't mind knocking anything that was going, including many of the most cherished ideas about themselves held by the Irish. Some liked them for their readiness to embrace causes they believed in: I do not ever remember commercial considerations stopping the Dubliners from making outspoken comments on national and international issues.
The Dubliners also had a reputation for being a hard-singing, hard-playing, hard-drinking lot — that last bit has been exaggerated to some extent by their admirers. During 1964, Luke Kelly left the group for a while to pursue a solo career and Bobby Lynch took Luke's place in the line-up. By the time they made their second lp for Transatlantic, Bobby and another newcomer, John Sheehan, had both joined the Dubliners. When Luke returned, Bobby left to become a distinguished solo performer, but John stayed with the group. That line-up, Barney, Ronnie, Ciaran, Luke, and John, persists to date.
The Dubliners have gone on to become world famous. In 1967, they made a single for the now defunct Major-Minor label, Seven drunken nights, and it reached the Top Ten in Britain's hit parade. They made a number of albums for Major-Minor and are now recording for Tribune.
The Dubliners have toured in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, It would be impossible to keep up with everything they do, but I've been lucky enough to see them in action twice over the past fourteen months — at a London concert, and in Holland at the 1971 Eindhoven festival.
It no longer surprises me to find that the group sounds as fresh as today's newspaper whenever they perform. In the autumn of 1972, they celebrated ten years of togetherness, but I've never known it to show on stage. They seem incapable of giving a stale performance.
Many of the songs the Dubliners sing are already in print, but this is the first big collection of songs chosen from their repertoire. The forty-odd songs in this book were chosen so as not to duplicate those already in print. Any selection must leave out somebody's favourite, I suppose, but I don't think you are likely to find here any songs you don't like. A few of them speak completely for themselves, but here and there I have added notes that I hope readers and singers will find informative.
Of course, many of the songs exist in 'standard' versions, and, where the texts printed here do not follow those versions, it is because the Dubliners do not follow them. In places they depart from the best-known words; sometimes they add or subtract a verse; I have followed the version they actually sing on their Transatlantic and Hallmark records.
Ray Edwards (as always) helped me with the transcription of tunes that the publishers were not able to supply. Stuart Lawrence transposed and tidied the tunes, then drew the music. Mick Maloney (one-time of the Johnstons folk group) was a tower of strength when we came to the 'Dublinese' and slang words. Mary Hardy, secretary of the Dubliners' Club, filled me in on all the details of the group's history that I didn't know or couldn't accurately remember. Bob Wise of Music Sales, waited with more patience than I deserve while I solved the various problems of producing the book.
To them, and to the Dubliners who have provided me with many happy hours, my grateful thanks. Eric Winter London, 1974
Ciarán Bourke, born, in Dublin on 18 February, 1935, spent his formative years with a Gaelic-speaking nanny and in a bilingual school. He had a university education, and goodnaturedly tolerates the cracks about it from the others, who didn't. In. the group, he plays harmonica, whistle, and guitar, and sings.
Ciarán doesn't like town life, so he lives, with his wife Jeannie, in a Georgian house in the Dublin Mountains. They have four delightful daughters — Ciara, Laoighse, Soibhra, and Rathfiona. He's built a magnificent fireplace from the local granite stone.
Long conversations in Gaelic and English are the rule in Ciarán's completely bi-lingual household. He likes cooking, especially of exotic spiced foods, keeps a couple of donkeys, and has a boat in the front garden. He's waiting, he says, for the Flood.
Barney McKenna, born in Dublin on 16 December, 1939, lives with his Dutch wife, Joka, in a seaside village overlooking Dublin bay. Since he loves sea fishing, nothing could suit him better.
Barney started playing music when he was 6, broke the strings on his uncle Jim's mandoline and his uncle Barney's fiddle, and even blew his dad's melodeon out of tune. At 12, he tried to join the Ho 1 Irish Army band, but he was rejected for faulty vision.
At 141/2, when he left school, his banjo playing was so good that he had become an embarrassment to other musicians. Barney is an admirer of Paul Robeson, Joe Heanney, Segovia, and Julian Bream.
Barney has a marvellous ability to overcome language barriers, and his banjo has become rather like an extension of his arms. Asked to name his most memorable experience, Barney said, "Meeting my wife".
John Sheahan, born in Dublin on 19 May, 1939, is a splendid instrumentalist, who excels on the fiddle. He played tin whistle whilst still at school, and went on to the Municipal School of Music to study the violin for five years, where he enlivened the classics by adding his own twiddly-bits. He won several awards at various feiseanna — festivals of Irish traditional music, dancing, poetry and literature.
John is a qualified electrician. He likes experimenting new instruments, wiring and decorating houses, and drawing plans.
John is fond of bluegrass — irreverently dubbed cowboy music by Luke Kelly.
Sheahan's golden hair and bushy beard (the bushiest of the five, some reckon) are the outward signs of the Dubliner's quietest member, who has a delightful sense of humour. With his wife, Mary, his daughter Siobhan, and his son Fiachre, John lives in the Dublin suburb of Raheny.
Ronnie Drew, born in Dun-Laoghaire on 16 September, 1934, was a boy soprano (would you believe?) until his voice broke. That instantly recognizable noise he makes has been described as like coke being crushed under a door.
At 19, Ronnie began to play guitar and sing during a variety of occupations in Dublin. Then he spent three years, teaching English in Spain, where he learned a lot about flamenco music.
Be loves riding and owns two horses, and his pony, Bacardi, took first prize at the 1969 Dublin horse show.
With his wife Deidre, his daughter Cliona, and his son Phelim, Ronnie lives a stone's throw from St. Stephen's Green.
Luke Kelly, born in. Dublin on 17 November, 1940, has a mop of red hair that looks like a sunburst. He grew up in the tough-and-tumble of Dublin's dockside, and left school at 131/2.
For a while he thought folk songs were rather square, but, when he discovered otherwise, he began to sing them. Luke is probably the most outspoken Dubliner and has always been a rebel. His poem For what died the sons of Roisin? is a devastating indictment or conditions in Ireland. He plays. banjo — and guitar, though not on stage.
Luike is hardly ever seen without a book or newspaper.. John Sheahan says Luke would read wallpaper if there was nothing' else He likes soccer and is a keen golfer.
As an actor Luke has played in the Dublin theatre festival, and in Dublin and London productions of Brendan Behan's Richard's Cork Leg (with the other lads, of course).
Luke's wife Deidre O'Connell owns and runs Dublin's Focus Theatre.